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The WORD. The TRUTH.

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Homily for 04 November 2021, Thursday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Rom 14, 7-12; Lk 15:1-10

Our first reading today from Romans 14:7-12 is the original inspiration for the famous liturgical song PANANAGUTAN, which was composed by the late Jesuit musician, Fr. Eduardo Hontiveros. I used to react to the part in the song that says “Walang sinuman ang nabubuhay para sa sarili lamang.” (None of us lives for oneself.)

Why? Because I have heard of a lot of people who seem to live only for themselves and do not care about anybody else in this world. Actually, what St. Paul is saying is, “NONE OF US…” He is referring to fellow disciples, to how as Christians we are called to live our lives.

For St. Paul, to be a Christian is to say “My life no longer belongs to me. It belongs to Christ who lives in me.” He actually says that in Galatians 2:19-20. For Paul, to be a Christian is “live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and has given up his life for us.”

By the way, this is also the basis for our faith in what we call the COMMUNION OF SAINTS. Remember that line that we say when we recite the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints…” St. Paul is referring to the spiritual bond that keeps us united even with those of us who have died already. Our link with them remains unbroken even by death. And that link is our common life in Christ.

The saints mentioned by St. Paul are those who have been “baptized into Christ.” I’ve told you this many times before—that to be baptized is not about accepting Jesus and making him a part of your life. It is rather about being accepted by Jesus and being made a part of his life, part of his body, the Church. And so, St. Paul says, “Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” Nothing can separate us from him.

This is a most consoling thought especially for those who have just lost a loved one. We draw comfort from the thought that we remain united with them in the Body of Christ.

But where in the reading is the aspect of PANANAGUTAN, of being answerable? It is in the last line, Romans 14:12, “Each of us shall give an account of himself to God.” I am not satisfied with the translation. We will be answerable to God (mananagot tayo sa Diyos) not just for ourselves but for each other in the day of reckoning.

This makes me understand why this reading is being paired with the Gospel Parables in Luke 15:1-10 about the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin. These parables have a context, and we read it right at the opening lines, on verses 1 and 2: “The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to (Jesus), but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So Jesus addressed this parable TO THEM!”

The parable was originally addressed to those who judged Jesus for associating with the tax-collectors who had a very bad reputation in Jewish society. Sort of “Birds of the same feathers flock together.” Take note that the word tax-collector is often paired with the word SINNER. They saw something scandalous about Jesus dining with these people, but they did not see the conversion that happened in most of them. Remember how one dinner with Jesus changed Zaccheus?

Now let us look at the two parables which I call the MATHEMATICAL JOKES of Jesus. First, the lost sheep. When Jesus says, “Which shepherd, having 100 sheep and losing one of them will not leave the 99 behind…?” What he actually means is, “Which shepherd who has been entrusted with 100 sheep…” Most shepherds did not own their sheep; they were merely entrusted with them and were answerable to the sheep owner for each one.

A shepherd who loses one sheep will not dare to come back with just 99. He is not supposed to take the loss of a single one lightly. He is responsible for all 100 of them. If he cannot answer for one missing sheep, he will lose his job. It’s not 100 minus 1 equals 99. It’s 100 minus 1 equals ZERO! He’d better find the missing one, or else…

Same with the lost coin. Ten coins were usually attached to an heirloom veil usually given at a wedding. If one coin is lost, the whole veil loses its value; it becomes worthless. Same principle, it’s not 10 minus 1 equals 9. It’s 10 minus 1 equals ZERO!

We are answerable to God for each other. Translate that in our present political context. When people are fooled into electing the wrong leaders into office because they are not well-informed, it is pointless to name them names and blame them for compromising the future of this country. The question that we will be asked in the day of reckoning is, “Have you done anything at all to find them, to meet them where they are. Did you even bother to reach out, to explain things to them, to save them from people who will compromise the future of their children?” The obligation in conscience is even greater if they are your fellow disciples. We are answerable for each other.

That is what we say when we sing “Tayong lahat ay may pananagutan sa isa’t isa.”

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